Choosing a theme for your shop is one of those things that can become surprisingly nerve racking. Something that you think is going to take a few minutes can easily end up in hours and hours of aimless browsing. While you don’t need to pick the perfect theme to get up and running with your shop, there are a few things to consider when selecting one.
Define your needs
Before even beginning your search for a theme, it’s a good idea to define what you want your site to look like. The easiest way to do this is to pick three existing online shops for inspiration and note a few key attributes from each of them that you want incorporated in your store.
Full screen hero gallery on homepage, main body font style
Product grid layout, subtle transition effects on load
product page setup
If you’ve never worked with a professional web design company before, this process is similar to questions a web developer might ask a potential client, in order to gauge how to develop their site. This will give you a rough framework to guide your search for a theme. Since you know what you’re looking for, it’ll be easier to make your selection.
Up to date
Choose a theme that was either published or updated roughly within the past 12 months. If the release date is unavailable, click the “sort by date” or “new releases” option on the website you’re browsing.
While there are a lot of great themes from years past, you run the risk of choosing one that is far behind current web usability standards, or is outdated design-wise. Changes in internet trends and usability standards can result in an “unfriendly” experience for your customers.
Demo store staging
Just because the live demo for a theme is showcasing women’s floral dresses doesn’t mean that you can’t sell men’s camo tees using the same theme. However, we still recommend choosing a theme which you can easily picture your products on without the need for extensive tweaks and customizations.
Reviews and customer feedback
Before selecting a theme, take a look at the customer feedback and consider the quality and quantity of reviews. If there aren’t any reviews available for the specific theme, do a Google search or social media search for “[X Company] reviews” to see what the word on the street is about the theme developer.
While you want your store to look good, you also want to make sure that if you run into any technical issues, the theme developer has got your back.
Free vs paid
These days, there are a lot of great looking free themes available for every eCommerce platform. Before picking a premium theme, we would suggest looking at the selection of free ones to choose from.
Free themes often look as good as premium themes on the surface, but come with a big drawback of limited configuration options. Despite being well designed, virtually all free themes are heavily restricted when it comes to making basic customizations, and you’ll have to be code savvy to really make the most of them. Another disadvantage of free themes is that there’s usually no support (or limited support) for them. If you run into technical issues, or have a question you might be on your own.
Where to look for themes
A Google search for “[Insert Platform Name] themes” (ex. “Shopify themes”) will obviously pull up all the available themes for said platform, but you might have trouble sifting through the search results.
One site we highly recommend is Theme Forest. Their marketplace has an expansive selection of high quality eCommerce themes at affordable prices. Template Monster also has a really solid line up of themes for various platforms.
This article is an excerpt from our book, A Kick-Ass Guide to Apparel eCommerce. Check out the book for more helpful tips on eCommerce for your clothing brand.